Axel Merckx talks about António Morgado's personality: "Sometimes I'd get on his nerves by saying that Messi is the best in the world, because he's crazy about Ronaldo"

Axel Merckx is the Sports Director of Hagens Bermans Axeon and has worked alongside big names from the latest wave of Portuguese cycling talent such as João Almeida, Rui Oliveira, Ivo Oliveira and, most recently, António Morgado. The 19-year-old was part of Merckx's team during 2023, winning the Tour of Rhodes in Greece and the U23 national time trial championship.

Last Tuesday, the "Mustache Man" or "Zorro" (two nicknames attributed to the Portuguese rider), came second in Le Samyn, a pavé race in Belgium, behind Laurenz Rex. After an intense look at the photo finish, it was confirmed that the UAE Team Emirates rider had not quite achieved his first professional victory. After a top 10 finish in the Volta ao Algarve, where he won the youth classification, and a top 25 finish in the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, where he was exceptional in his support for Tim Wellens, Morgado is a name on the lips of many in the cycling world.

Axel Merckx therefore spoke to Het Nieuwsblad about the sensation, praising him as a hard-working and friendly person. "With us, he's gained a lot of maturity. At first, I was worried about it. His knee was bothering him, but we didn't know anything about it until it became too serious. We told him he couldn't train for a while, but he loves running so much, he's so determined. He can also suffer a lot and endure pain. So we caught him a few times when he was back on the bike," Merckx recalls.

The ex-pro also points out that Morgado should have more self-confidence, as well as some advice and tactical positioning, and that if he improves in these aspects, he can achieve a lot in the world of cycling. "When you hear him busy, he never feels well. He's always bad, always tired, always dead. It even became a joke in the team. The highlight was the Tour of Rhodes. Ten kilometers from the finish line, I came up to him. 'You can win,' I said. 'No, no, I can't do this. I'm dead. Then he came to apologize because he had come second. I said to him: 'Please? You won the general classification, didn't you?"

Regarding António Morgado's profile, Axel Merckx says he sees him as a puncheur, due to his strong physical composition. Even so, he admits to being surprised that Morgado is making a name for himself on the parallels, so he's not shutting the door on the Portuguese cyclist's exploits in the Tour de France (his dream), even though he's not very good at the time trial.

Merckx also talks about António Morgado as a person: "Sometimes I'd get on his nerves by saying that Messi is the best in the world, because he's crazy about Ronaldo. He could laugh about it, you know? I know he seems a bit distant on TV, but his English isn't very good yet and it's also a kind of defense mechanism. That boy didn't have much in the past and now suddenly everyone is coming up to him: you have to get used to it."

Eddy Merckx's son also points out the next race in which Morgado could excel: the Brabantse Pijl.

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